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Find out tour cancellation rules before you book

Booking tours with reputable companies certified by a group such as the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA) is the first step to ensuring your trip goes off without a hitch. However, sometimes reputable providers cancel trips because of low bookings, political unrest, natural disasters, or failure to secure the promised accommodations or activities.

Whatever the reason, you should know a company’s rules about cancellations before you book. There are no governing rules for what a company owes you if they cancel, so each provider has its own policy. As some companies don’t spell out the rules on websites, you’ll need to call and ask for the policy in writing.

In the fine print, most tour operators I’ve checked out give themselves the right to cancel or change itineraries for any reason. Some claim they’ll offer a full refund if this happens, while others only promise “credit towards a future trip.” In some instances, a company will be clear that departures aren’t set in stone until a certain number of people sign up.

GAP Adventures, for instance, doesn’t guarantee every departure. It promises to inform booked travelers whether or not their trip will be running within 60 days of the departure date and advises to hold off on booking airfare until the trip is confirmed. To avoid an unpleasant surprise, make sure you’re informed about your company’s guaranteed departure and cancellation rules before you book a flight.

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